A Republican county clerk in Colorado and her deputy have been charged with multiple felonies connected to tampering with election equipment as part of an alleged effort to support Donald Trump's election fraud claims. NPR reports that the "laundry list" of charges against Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters includes felony charges of attempting to influence a public servant, identity theft, and criminal impersonation, among others, while the misdemeanor charges include first-degree official misconduct. She was indicted by a grand jury on a total of 10 counts. Belinda Knisley, Peters' deputy, was indicted on six counts, including conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation.
The charges stem from investigations of a 2021 incident in which Peters and Knisley allegedly allowed an unauthorized person to access voting equipment servers, the Denver Post reports. Information from the equipment, including passwords, was later shared online by election conspiracy theorists. According to the indictment, the pair turned off security cameras before a May 2021 upgrade of the county's Dominion Voting Systems equipment and created access for a temporary employee, 9News reports. It was in the name of Gerald Wood, who had been contacted by Peters about work on the machines—but he returned the security badge before the upgrade, and it's not clear who used it.
The indictment states that Peters and Knisley "devised and executed a deceptive scheme ... and set in motion the eventual distribution of confidential information to unauthorized people." Peters, considered a "hero" by supporters of Trump's discredited fraud claims, is running as a Republican for Colorado secretary of state, but the party issued a statement Wednesday urging her to drop out, the Post reports. "Any candidate who is indicted with felonies by a grand jury and who will be charged by a Republican District Attorney should suspend their campaign while they undergo the legal challenges associated with those indictments," the statement said, adding that the "Republican Party is the party of law and order." (Read more Colorado stories.)